Imagine you want to have your wedding at the church your family has attended for three generations, but that in order to qualify, you must take a marriage-preparation course from the creepiest, most boundary-challenged clergyman on earth. That's the premise of this dismal romantic comedy: Laugh now or forever hold your peace, because the execution does nothing to offset the fundamentally unpleasant sight of a man of the cloth insinuating himself into the most secular portions of a young couple's life.
Goofy Ben Murphy (John Krasinski, of the U.S. version of The Office) finds the girl of his dreams in hyper-organized Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore), and within six months he's proposing in front the entire family at her parents' (Roxanne Hart, Peter Strauss) 30th-anniversary party. The only hitch is that he'd like to get hitched in the Caribbean, while her family is set on a traditional wedding at their local church. And that means dealing with jolly Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) and his marriage boot-camp. Assisted by a sinister homunculus in child minister-in-training form (Josh Flitter), Reverend Frank assigns Sadie and Ben a series of exercises, starting with abstention from sex until after the wedding; to ensure compliance, Frank and his sidekick surreptitiously bug the couple's bedroom, then monitor what's going on from a truck parked at the curb. The diabolical reverend also humiliates Ben and Sadie publicly when they arrive late for mass, badgers them into playing a word-association game with the in-laws that leads to everyone saying things that were better left unsaid, and makes them care for a pair of monstrous mechanical baby dolls that scream ceaselessly and spew goo from every orifice. Their blissful relationship is soon so badly on the rocks that there may not be a wedding at all.
Written by Kim Barker, Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio and directed by Ken Kwapis (whose credits include THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS and multiple episodes of The Office), this limp excuse for a comedy pits the likable Moore and Krasinski against Williams' crude, manic riffing, and it goes without saying that the young folks don't stand a chance. And the overlarge cast of supporting characters, which includes Sadie's snooty parents, condescending granny (Grace Zabriskie), newly divorced sister (Christine Taylor) and platonic best friend — or is he? — (Eric Christian Olsen), as well as Ben's married friends Joel and Shelley (DeRay Davis, Mindy Kaling), clutters the story without adding much to the mirth. The outtakes that accompany the end credits suggest that making the movie was a blast; it's a shame the same can't be said for watching it. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh